Radu Muntean uses his cool yet sympathetically observational eye to chart the distance between a responsible family man and his long-lost buddies.

Drinking, smoking and whoring ain’t what they used to be in “Boogie,” Radu Muntean’s attenuated reflection on friends whose paths since high school have taken starkly different routes. Playing on themes similar to “Old Joy,” Muntean uses his cool yet sympathetically observational eye to chart the distance between a responsible family man and his long-lost buddies who have yet to grow up –problem is, auds are aware that the guys are losers long before the protag. Though more universal in theme than the helmer’s superior “The Paper Will Be Blue,” travel is unlikely to be widespread outside fest berths.

Thirtysomething Bogdan (Dragos Bucur) is a successful furniture manufacturer on a brief May Day holiday by the Black Sea with pregnant wife Smaranda (Anamaria Marinca) and 4-year-old son Adrian (Vlad Muntean, the helmer’s own kid). Like all summer resorts out of season, everything seems a bit spare until Bogdan runs into friends he hasn’t seen in three years, Sorin (Mimi Branescu) and Vali (Adrian Vancica).

Drinking with his old pals reminds Bogdan, nicknamed “Boogie,” what life was like before marriage, children and responsibility. A minor spat with Smaranda leads Bogdan back to Sorin and Vali and an all-nighter revisiting the former pleasures of cigarettes, booze and a prostitute named Ramona (Roxana Iancu). As the wee hours draw nigh and Sorin and Vali reveal themselves as unhappy empty vessels, both worshipful and resentful, Bogdan realizes his life is pretty darn good.

Muntean worked with regular script collaborators Alex Baciu and Razvan Radulescu to achieve the level of naturalism auds have come to expect from this trio, but the subtle build-up leads to realizations long-since reached by the viewer. Single (Sorin) or unhappily coupled (Vali), barely floating above life’s waters and yearning for elusive golden days of youth, these guys are expertly written characters and certainly recognizable, but their bland personalities have difficulty holding interest.

The same can’t be said for Bogdan and Smaranda, going through the usual choppy patches of most new families and exploring ways to better communicate both as male and female and husband and wife. Unsurprisingly, Bucur and Marinca (not to mention little Muntean too) are experts at unselfconsciously holding the camera, capturing the commonalities while still making these people individuals, and their total ease with each other, especially in the final scene, provides a nice feeling of uplift as if to say “all’s right with the world.”

John Cassavetes’ strong influence on this sort of realism extends in varying degrees to style as well. Appropriately, visuals are far less rough than “The Paper Will Be Blue” while still favoring medium-length scenes and a hand-held feel with just the slightest of movements. Naturalistic lighting and lack of any noticeable extraneous music increase Muntean’s sharp eye and ear for holding onto unblinkered truths.

Boogie

Romania

Production

A Multimedia Est, Antena 1 production, with the support of the Romanian National Center of Cinematography. (International sales: Maximum Films, Toronto.) Produced by Dragos Vilcu. Executive producer, Dragos Potop. Directed by Radu Muntean. Screenplay by Alex Baciu, Muntean, Razvan Radulescu.

Crew

Camera (color), Tudor Lucaciu; editor, Alexandru Radu; production designer, Sorin Dima; music, Electric Brother; costume designer, Georgiana Bostan; sound (Dolby Digital), Electric Brother, Dragos Stanomir; assistant director, Andrei Amarfoaie; casting, Exit Film. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 16, 2008. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Dragos Bucur, Anamaria Marinca, Mimi Branescu, Adrian Vancica, Roxana Iancu, Vlad Muntean, Geanina Varga.

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